Category Archives: Bringing the Motive Home

Bringing the Motive Home, Spring 2024

Cheese and Dough: The Dairy Industry’s Successful Campaign to Reform The American Diet during the Obama Administration

In a Tortoiseshell

This excerpt concludes my junior paper, which investigates the extensive influence of corporate dairy interests on the American diet and food systems. Focused on the power dynamics between “Big Dairy” and the government, it unveils a pervasive conflict of interest in shaping dietary guidelines and regulatory bodies. The exploration of this intricate influence led us to the presented excerpt, which also introduces potential solutions, including bipartisan legislative efforts and the potential separation of dietary guidelines from USDA influence.

Excerpt / Lina Singh

The power wielded by corporate dairy interests not only molds the dietary habits of susceptible consumers but also extends its reach into broader socio-political spheres. The stark financial disproportion is exemplified by the staggering $202 million accumulated through dairy checkoff dollars in 2011, overshadowing government spending on healthier dietary alternatives such as fruits or vegetables. This contrast underscores a significant misalignment between agricultural and nutritional policies that ought to be intertwined.

This dissonance prompts deeper investigation into the connections linking big dairy and the government, revealing a political landscape where corporate interests permeate public policy, exerting profound impacts on the nation’s food systems and regulations. The 2012 Dairy Report to Congress outlines the pathway for dairy industry leaders to attain such authoritative positions: “The Secretary selects dairy producer members from nominations submitted by producer organizations, general farm organizations representing dairy producers, Qualified Programs, or other interested parties.” The Dairy Board, composed of 36 dairy producers and 2 dairy importers, administers the checkoff program and notably approved contracts with major fast-food chains like Domino’s, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell in 2012. This process enables a revolving door that allows industry insiders to access pivotal roles within regulatory bodies. It’s no surprise, then, that dairy industry representation on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has also consistently risen over time: “Three out of eleven members on the 1995 Committee had past or present industry ties; seven out of eleven members on the 2000 Committee; eleven out of thirteen members on the 2005 Committee; and nine out of thirteen members on the 2010 Committee.”  A clear conflict of interest becomes evident, as the leaders crafting The Pyramid, or MyPlate, are the very same ones invested in the lucrative sales of specific food products such as dairy, even if it involves collaborations with the nation’s most prominent fast-food brands.

Disturbing revelations of financial irregularities and oversight have cast a shadow over Big Dairy and the government’s transparency, prompting criticism in recent years. In 2017, a Politico article disclosed that the USDA had failed to submit a required financial report to Congress regarding a $400 million dairy research and promotional program — “one of the largest pots of cash among federal checkoff programs for at least four consecutive years.”  This ignited backlash from farmers and advocacy organizations, marking a striking departure from the program’s prior transparency when, before 2012, dairy checkoff reports were routinely submitted to Capitol Hill. The period between 2012 and 2017, following the successful Domino’s campaign and the overhaul of national dietary guidelines, remained relatively subdued in the public eye until investigative reporting revealed questionable ethical and financial management practices among industry executives and government leaders.

In 2017, a year that witnessed the closure of 1,600 dairy farms nationwide, IRS records indicate that 10 executives within Diary Management Inc. received over $8 million in compensation, averaging upwards of $800,000 per person. Thomas Gallagher, the nonprofit’s CEO, received over $1 million three times between 2013 and 2017, which covered tax indemnification, charter travel, and health club benefits. This stark disparity in earnings parallels the revolving door in food policy, exemplified by former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s swift transition to lead the U.S. Dairy Export Council post his tenure, while also serving as DMI’s executive vice president.  Meanwhile, DMI allocated nearly $55 million to Daniel J. Edelman Inc., the world’s largest independent public relations firm, for “agency services,” attempting to counter negative publicity by promoting positive narratives about supporting dairy farmers. Thus, while DMI attempts to conceal its vulnerabilities from small dairy farmers and consumers, the checkoff program perpetuates a political system that continues to enrich the fortunes of only a handful of dairy executives.

Amidst this, members of the Agriculture Committee in both the House and the Senate have been susceptible to millions in dairy business donations, effectively turning those intended to represent the citizenry into agents of powerful agricultural interests instead. Most recently as of December 2023, the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act overwhelmingly passed the House, restoring whole milk and 2% milk as options in school cafeterias after they were banned under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010.  The new bill comes at a time when alternative dairy options such as oat, soy, and almond milk have gained popularity among 38% of American adults. This underscores a concerning trend: while consumer preferences shift toward dairy alternatives, dairy stakeholders have found a way to clamp down on one of their most captive customers — the American youth. Furthermore, politicians have only reinforced the desires of this industry. Illinois Congresswoman Mary Miller referred to the previous elimination of whole milk from schools as “radical Obama administration policies led by Michelle Obama,” alluding to the former first lady’s efforts to combat childhood obesity.  It’s clear that from the Domino’s campaign over a decade ago to the present day, the dairy industry’s sway over Capitol Hill has only intensified, showcasing a recurring cycle between public criticism, defensive industry reaction, and government institutionalization.

Former Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s 2019 statement, “get big or get out,” captures the government’s indifferent stance toward both the struggles of dairy farmers who have historically built America’s dairy industry, as well as Americans’ waistlines. This longstanding attitude has fostered an increasingly concentrated food system, benefiting a handful of corporations while overshadowing vulnerable, powerless farmers and consumers. Since the New Deal era, there has been a notable deviation from the checkoff program’s intended function—from providing immediate relief to being leveraged for the long-term prosperity and profit gains of specific industries by influencing the American diet.

The scholarly debate between journalists Michael Moss and James McWilliams over the checkoff program encapsulates a larger discourse surrounding the government’s involvement in enhancing the profitability of private enterprises. Upon careful examination, Moss convincingly exposes systemic flaws and the unjust dominance of dairy’s largest actors in shaping food regulations that run counter to the nation’s best interests. As the trust of marginalized communities in Washington’s leadership continues to erode, it becomes increasingly critical to address this issue.

However, within this complex situation lies a glimpse of hope. Senators from opposing sides of the political aisle, Cory Booker (D) and Mike Lee (R) introduced the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming Act in February 2023 aimed at enhancing the transparency of commodity research and promotion boards. Specifically, the OFF Act would prohibit any board from entering into “any contract or agreement to carry out checkoff program activities with a party that engages in activities for the purpose of influencing any government policy or action that relates to agriculture.”  Co-sponsored by Senators Rand Paul (R), Elizabeth Warren (D), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D), this bipartisan support underscores the recognized necessity for checkoff reform.  Backed by numerous farm groups, including the National Dairy Producers Organization, the Northeast Organic Dairy Farmers Alliance, the Revolving Door Project, and the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, the OFF Act holds potential. Though in its nascent stages, concerted grassroots support and constituent pressure on representatives to propel this bill to law could potentially rescue the agricultural sector from peril.

To enhance the nation’s health, medical experts propose separating dietary guidelines from the USDA’s purview, advocating for the transfer of this responsibility to a dedicated health agency. For example, the New England Journal of Medicine suggests assigning guideline development to bodies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the National Academy of Science Institute of Medicine (IOM). Similar to practices in nations like Finland and Greece, the United States could entrust the publication of dietary advice to a government body solely focused on this task, insulated from corporate influence. This measure alone holds the promise of saving lives and delivering the unbiased nutritional guidance that Americans urgently need and deserve.

The Domino’s cheese campaign in partnership with Dairy Management Inc. serves as a stark reminder of the blurred lines between profit-driven initiatives and governmental regulations. The incestuous relationship between agribusiness interests and regulators perpetuates a system that disproportionately benefits large-scale entities while marginalizing small farmers and consumers. By disentangling the web of industry influence from agricultural policymaking, we can pave the way toward safeguarding not only American dietary choices but the integrity of the nation’s democratic values. 

Author Commentary / Lina Singh

My writing process involved careful planning and continuous refinement, beginning with immersing myself in primary and secondary sources to discover a compelling narrative. Almost like an investigative reporter, I delved deeper into my chosen topic, familiarizing myself with the ongoing scholarly conversation. Crafting my argument involved building upon existing publications, supporting certain claims, and challenging others.

Conceptualizing my argument as the culmination of a chronological storyline spread across three parts helped me structure my paper. Each section served as a mini-paper seamlessly leading into the next. To organize my argument, I maintained a chronological document containing evidence, quotes, data, and historical events that naturally formed the basis for my three sections. Alongside each piece of evidence, I recorded initial thoughts on its significance and its potential role in supporting my paper’s claims. This approach not only facilitated the organization of evidence but also laid the groundwork for my analysis during the writing process. While I maintained this roadmap for my paper, I approached it with flexibility and openness to change. Adapting my initial outline throughout the writing process is what allowed for the emergence of new ideas and contributed to the development of a richer analysis.

Another lesson learned from this paper is the value of in-depth research into an ultra-specific event, person, or story. By zooming out from the details of the Domino’s cheese campaign, for instance, this paper shed light on broader implications, inspiring critical reflection and advocating for collective efforts to disentangle industry influence from dietary regulations. Entering this research, I had a broad understanding of the topic but emerged with a deeper knowledge and a refined ability to trace the complexities of this problem. The key to the success of this paper lies in my genuine interest and investment in the subject matter. So, my ultimate advice for tackling extensive research like a junior paper, is to choose a topic that excites you and sustains your interest over an extended period.

Editor Commentary / Nadja Markov

The writing style as well as the expectations of the Junior Paper differ from the ones posed by the Writing Seminars or Freshman Seminars. The writer has had two years of exposure to academic writing at the university level, as well as their department – and this can be reflected in the improvements in their approach to researching and writing a paper. Lina’s paper shows a strong understanding of the source material and an original thesis rooted in evidence. Her scholarly motive leads the paper forward, even in the conclusion.

Even the first paragraphs of the conclusion, we can see Lina restating her motive through using sentence structures such as “This dissonance prompts deeper investigation into the connections linking big dairy and the government…” In this way, she ensures that the reader once again understands her point of view as a researcher, and sees the connections that she is making in her paper. This motivating sentence is then followed by a discussion of her sources, and a deep-dive into some of the statistics that she gathered for the purpose of this paper. This is used in order to orient the reader to the issue at hand. As a reader, I felt as though I was investigating this dairy industry with Lina. This tactic is especially useful when dealing with large datasets and a plethora of sources, which most Junior Papers are. In Lina’s case, she is analyzing her sources through the lens of public policy, but this skill is interdisciplinary.

Next, Lina adds yet another layer to her motive, now restating the scholarly point of view by mentioning the “scholarly debate going on between journalists Michael Moss and James McWilliams”. This helps the reader understand the scholarly significance of her work, as well as the differing points of view that they can take on the issue at hand. This approach also ensures that she is not cherry-picking her data in order to fit one narrative, but is rather looking at the bigger picture, and analyzing her issue through an objective lens.

Finally, the writer turns to expanding the scope of her essay right at the end of the conclusion by introducing a “glimpse of hope” into the discussion. She mentions different approaches that have been taken to mitigate the issue imposed by the dairy industry, and, perhaps most importantly, takes a moment to restate what her essay brings to the scholarly conversation.

Bringing the Motive Home, Spring 2024

Language’s Limits: Delbo and the Incommunicability of the Holocaust

In a Tortoiseshell

This essay was written for a Freshman Seminar called “At The Mind’s Limits: The Holocaust in History, Theory, and Literature.” Throughout the semester, the class read several historical accounts and testimonies describing life inside Nazi Germany’s concentration camps; Charlotte Delbo’s writing, collected in a book titled Auschwitz and After, stood out to me for its literary and poetic characteristics. While other descriptions of the Holocaust written by survivors are conveyed through a sober prose, Delbo’s writing seeks to communicate the unspeakable through non-literal language and stylistic choices that ask to be interpreted in order to be understood. 

Excerpt / Jordan Fraser Angel

On numerous occasions, Delbo writes from the perspective of those who did not survive the camps or are unable to articulate their experiences. This practice, however, raises questions about the tension between the imperative of testimony and the impossibility of communication. Indeed, Delbo writes that “it is hard to come back / and speak again to the living” (256); at the same time, Delbo has stated that “Il faut donner à voir,” which the translator phrases as “they must be made to see” (xvii). However, I propose that “donner à voir” could also mean “display”: look, but don’t touch. Further, Delbo differentiates the detached, articulate “mémoire externe” (“thinking memory,” xx) from the immediate, gripping “mémoire des sens” (“sense memory,” xx), suggesting again gradations of access. Indeed, when Delbo says that “it is not from deep memory my words issue,” she confirms a fundamental incommunicability at the heart of the experience. While this does not imply that non-survivors are barred from any access to the Holocaust, which would prevent remembering it and thinking critically about it, this does reassert the existence of a physicality so subjective that it cannot be transmitted. As the narrator writes through Mado’s perspective, “they don’t understand,” but “at the very least they must know” (261). The danger of transgression lies in the hubris of equating our impression of understanding with the survivors’ experiences, as exemplified by Marie-Louise’s husband. The wife says that “my memories have become his own” (281), but this has corrupted her memories: “I have the distinct impression he was there with me” (281). Knowing does not mean understanding: when the husband says, on a visit to the concentration camp, that “I saw more than you did when you were there,” he is committing an inexcusable error. 

If language is insufficient for the non-survivor to understand the experience of the Holocaust, it is also insufficient for the survivor to describe this experience. When Delbo admits that she “can’t explain the difference between our time here and time over there” (352), she underlines the inextricable connection between incommunicability and language. The language of non-survivors is insufficient, as Delbo experiences when she first attempts to read again and finds all books superfluous, because she possesses a “more trustworthy knowledge, manifest, irrefutable” (238). For example, as Mado states via the intermediary of the narrator, “words do not necessarily have the same meaning” (267) for survivors and non-survivors. One’s hunger is not the other’s hunger. Another fellow-survivor describes herself as “disillusionized,” but adds that the use of this term is only to “imitate the way normal people think” (260). When Delbo writes of “an effort [she] cannot name” (236), she suggests that her experience lies beyond words. And yet, “there is one word only for dread / one for anguish” (11): although words do not suffice, non-literal efforts to convey “dread” and “anguish,” or any other aspect of her experience, are equally ineffective.

Beyond the limitations of words, there is also the issue of Delbo’s own doubts regarding the transformation of her testimony into a narrative. In the midst of a narrative, Delbo says that she is “writing this story in a café,” only to correct herself, saying that “it is turning into a story” (26). Similarly, describing a different episode, she wonders whether she “reconstituted this whole scene after the fact” (36). When she describes what she envisions recounting in the future to explain what she was thinking in the moment, she contradicts this by saying that even that moment of imagination was itself constructed: “This is not so […] I thought of nothing” (64). In certain instances, language is framed as existing only outside of the Holocaust: Delbo struggles “to explain with words what was happening in that period of time when there were no words” (237). Perhaps language is as alien to Delbo’s experience as is the reader’s understanding of the language she uses. When Delbo writes “today, I am not sure that what I wrote is true. I am certain it is truthful” (1), she emphasizes subjectivity rather than universality. Indeed, reality may be out of reach to both the non-survivor reading and Delbo writing, their disparate subjective understandings of the “truthful” always distanced from the “true.” The difference lies in the fact that Delbo possesses a subjective experience, while the reader only a subjective impression. Although it is not impossible that reality, experience, and understanding may coincide, the only certainty is that one cannot know whether this occurs.

Delbo’s non-literal language, which can be read as an attempt to communicate what a deceptively straightforward account could not convey, suggests that as language attempts to bridge the difference between survivor and non-survivor, it depends more and more on the subjectivity of both writer and reader. The closer one gets, the further one travels. As when Delbo asks, “and now, shall we go from dream to reality? Reality, what’s that?” (346), the “true” is always being supplanted by the “truthful.” 

Author Commentary / Jordan Fraser Angel

I wondered if stretching language to its limits allows the reader to reach that zone at the “mind’s limits” which makes the very fact of the Holocaust so difficult to grasp, let alone understand. Rereading Delbo’s writing, I examined each instance of non-literal language to analyze the effects it produced on the reader. I discovered that Delbo frequently attempts to contrast or liken the world of the concentration camp with the ordinary world, in order to communicate her experience to the non-survivor. However, I realized that when Delbo evokes experiences to which only a survivor could have access, she reaches a boundary which words do not permeate. This is due to the inherent tension in the meaning of a word, bound up in experience: there is an empirical chasm between Delbo and the reader. 

After locating the origin of the tension in Delbo’s writing, between the linguistic exertion performed by her non-literal stylistic choices and the incommunicability of the experience she seeks to convey, I identified the moments in which Delbo’s text meditates on this difficulty. This is what I explore in the extract above. I conclude my argument by returning to the epigraph at the beginning of Auschwitz and After: “Today, I am not sure that what I wrote is true. I am certain it is truthful.” Like much of Delbo’s writing, it is a statement whose opaqueness hinges on questions belonging to language itself. 

Editor Commentary / Grace Kim

A pearl of writing-related wisdom from my own mentors: We write to think. Our thoughts emerge, take shape, accrue layers, and become increasingly complex and interconnected through the process of writing—thinking—on the page. Jordan’s paper is a prime example of this linear, forward-moving thinking. Rather than circling back to the same idea over and over again with every paragraph of her evidence-analysis, Jordan uses the very unpacking of her motive to gradually reveal a newfound understanding of the motive itself. 

The first sentence of this excerpt is a nod to the first half of Jordan’s evidence-analysis, where she close-reads how Delbo “writes from the perspective of those who did not survive the camps or are unable to articulate their experiences,” as a means of thinking through the question she raises towards the beginning of her paper (motive!). Drawing from this initial motive, Jordan then raises another, more nuanced question: “This practice, however, raises questions about the tension between the imperative of testimony and the impossibility of communication.” In essence, her motive that first sparked her ideas for the paper inspires not a solidified answer that she proves over and over again but another question that she aims to better understand through the second half of her evidence-analysis. 

As she unpacks her more nuanced motive, Jordan continually engages in a close-reading of her primary source at the word-level, moving beyond mere paraphrasings of what Delbo writes to examining how Delbo writes it. She weaves together her own observations and commentary (analysis!) with words directly quoted from Delbo (evidence!), interpreting Delbo’s “mémoire externe” as having a “detached, articulate” sense; interpreting Delbo’s “mémoire des sens” as having an “immediate, gripping” sense; and drawing the connection between these two phrasings as being Delbo’s efforts to “differentiate” between the two. Notice how Jordan cues our attention to her own ideas through language that signals her interpretations of Delbo’s writings: “I propose,” “could also mean,” “suggesting.” 

Rather than merely citing more instances of how language is insufficient for the non-survivor, Jordan moves forward into her next two paragraphs by adding layers to this idea, clearly signposting her expansive direction through the first sentence of each paragraph. Her second excerpted paragraph builds upon the first by examining how language “is also insufficient for the survivor to describe this experience,” considering, too, her topic with respect to survivors, upon thoroughly considering the experience of non-survivors. In line with this trajectory, her third excerpted paragraph then builds upon the second by examining how “there is also the issue of Delbo’s own doubts regarding the transformation of her testimony into a narrative,” considering yet another complication of Delbo’s work. As readers, we are able to follow along with Jordan’s thoughtful organization of how she understands what she understands because she clearly establishes how each paragraph not only flows into the next but also contributes to her overarching motive for understanding what it means to stretch language to its limits. 
During one of our conversations about this excerpt, Jordan shared that the purpose of her paper was to present a motive, unpack it, and show a newfound understanding of that movie through her evidence-analysis. This is a stellar model of a motive-driven approach to academic writing, where the paper does not move in a circular logic that constantly works to prove the same idea from beginning to end, but rather moves forward—question after question after question.

Bringing the Motive Home, Spring 2024

The Death of the Author: The Convergence of ‘Now and Then’ and the Resurrection of a Pluralized Authorship Through Posthumous Publication

In a Tortoiseshell

This excerpt is chosen from my R3 for my first-year writing seminar, WRI 178: The Posthuman. Using the Beatles’ newest and final single, “Now and Then” as a form of posthumous publication in the digital era, my paper focuses on understanding how the details of the song’s publication following the death of its original creator was reconstructed into a new interpretation irrespective of what the original creator might have intended. To understand the cause of an unexpectedly positive response to the song’s release despite numerous revisions and the explicit presence of living collaborators that John Lennon did not consent to, I analyzed critic reviews, promotional materials, and differences between the official and original audio to recognize a pattern for its positive reception. The excerpt occurs towards the conclusion of my essay during my revision of current theories of authorship to suggest a pluralized view of authorship, in which “Now and Then” is attributed to the collaboration of all four Beatles preserved through time, rather than John Lennon on his own.

Excerpt / Cheryl Li

The dedication to preserving elements of an authentic Beatles recording is particularly prominent in the short film when Lennon’s voice, isolated from background noise with the help of technology, sings for the first time since his death. With the sound of electronics beeping in the background builds to the reveal, the sudden cut off mid-beep reaches the height of the viewer’s anticipation just before Lennon’s voice cuts through the silence, focusing the viewer’s attention to the voice’s strength and clarity in contrast to its muffled sound in the original demo. The camera cuts to an empty recording studio as Lennon sings in the background, and the frame pans in on the microphone stand where Lennon would have stood in the present had he been alive, suggesting that Lennon has been brought back to life to reunite with the rest of the Beatles one last time. Starr expresses in amazement, “it was like John’s there,” speaking to how hearing Lennon’s voice with such clarity decades after his death almost felt as though Lennon himself was working with McCartney and Starr in the present to complete “Now and Then”’s production like any other Beatles recording before his death (“The Beatles – Short Film”). The moment is emotional as the viewer is confronted with Lennon’s absence, and yet the short film’s subtle suggestion that Lennon is there in the recording studio demonstrates the authenticity of “Now and Then” through Lennon’s voice. Through the song’s portrayal of a faithful collaboration between all four members of the Beatles in the past and present similar to when all four Beatles were alive, “Now and Then”’s marketing appeals to authenticating the song’s plural authorship, successfully establishing “Now and Then” as an authentic Beatles recording. 

“Now and Then”’s depiction of a thematic convergence between past and present justifies the extensive revisions to the original demo recording as a transformation from a lonely solo to a joyous reunion, reframing the band’s conclusion from a death to a resurrection. With the band’s dissolution in the 1970s that marked the “death” of the Beatles as an identity, it became difficult to discern whether a reunion was foreseeable despite the public’s overwhelming support for the band. Lennon’s abrupt murder seemed to finalize the Beatles’ death, creating a dissatisfying end for the public and leaving the greatest hypothetical of what would have happened had Lennon been alive for just a little longer. However, the abrupt and unnatural death of not just a talented songwriter but also an adored musical group with “untapped potential and unsettled legacies” was crucial to “Now and Then”’s success by appealing to the public’s desire for a satisfying conclusion to one of the most popular rock bands in history (Prewitt and Accardi 95). While the significant amount of revisions to the demo flagged the song to scholars as a focal point for widespread disapproval, it’s this very transformation that fulfills the public’s desire for a satisfying conclusion to the Beatles in the form of the reunion fans have always hoped for. The original demo takes on a solemn tune, an equally sorrowful piano playing quietly in the background. The lyrics sound nostalgic as Lennon harmonizes his lonely grieving of a past relationship, something that McCartney builds upon to express his own remorse and desire to reunite with a lost friend, Lennon himself. In both the demo recording and the official audio, “Now and Then” seems to bridge a connection between two friends, Lennon and McCartney, each struggling to express a desire to reunite with one another despite being unable to say these words directly to each other (Sheffield). However, the transfer of authorship for “Now and Then” from just Lennon to his former bandmates creates this long desired reunion among friends despite the chronological barriers. In contrast to the demo’s mournful ballad, “Now and Then” takes on an upbeat tune, the harmonization of guitar, drums, strings, and a more confident piano adopting a rock style characteristic of the Beatles’ past songs as Lennon’s voice sings stronger than ever. While the demo’s audio sounds vulnerable, a private confession coupled with hopelessness that the relationship being grieved will never be restored, the official audio’s addition of a collaborative symphony of instrumentals played by the very bandmates Lennon had missed presents a harmonization between Lennon and the rest of the Beatles, communicating a reciprocation of the sentiments Lennon expresses. The demo transforms into a hopeful reconciliation as McCartney’s voice in the present intertwines with Lennon’s in the past as though McCartney was supporting Lennon half a century from the future, “[reframing] the group’s ending” from “solo competition” to “studio unity”, from “losing…friends” to “finding their voices once more” as the harmonization of all four Beatles in the official audio triumphs over the discord that had previously broken the band apart (Murray). As one listener points out, “Now and Then” is “powerful because it feels like the final goodbye of the most influential rock band that ever existed” (Isaacalconrovira5231). While “Now and Then”’s status as the last song would suggest a conclusion to the Beatles, the significance of the band’s reunion reverses its death, rewriting the Beatles’ conclusion into a simultaneous resurrection. Therefore, the transformation of “Now and Then” from a solo work into a pluralized authorship distinguished by collaboration among all four Beatles provides a satisfying conclusion in the form of a reunion, authenticating “Now and Then” as a Beatles song through the reclamation of harmony among its members.

Author Commentary / Cheryl Li

In these paragraphs, it was imperative to establish how the song’s promotion perpetuated this concept of collaboration between past and present that would influence the public’s positive perception of the song. I began by watching the short film that preceded the song’s release to gain some insight on what the surviving Beatles members hoped for their audience to take away. The short film itself was densely packed with information in terms of historical context, the production process, and subtle messages through visual storytelling. I noted details in dialogue and cinematography that I felt uniquely stood out from the rest of the footage. Scenes like the camera shot panning on empty space around a microphone stood out as a reconciliation with the past. After comparing the official audio with the demo recording, I noted how differences in instrumentation and dynamics perpetuated the theme of accentuating the past. The excerpt I selected best demonstrates how my analysis emphasizes elements of the short film and audio for “Now and Then” that contribute to the idea of a reunion between the dead and living, thereby guiding my reader through my argument with the support of my original sources.

It was during the writing process for this essay that I truly understood what my writing seminar professor meant by saying “to be a writer is to be a reader.” I undoubtedly spent the most time understanding how to link my sources and subsequent analysis into a coherent line of reasoning. Oftentimes, I felt as though I was retracing my mental footsteps to best figure out how I managed to arrive at my working thesis based on the sources I gathered, and how to best replicate this path on paper for a reader. I found it most helpful to understand components such as the motive, thesis, and analysis should contribute to crafting a convincing argument from the perspective of a reader before I could execute each component.

Editor Commentary / Nadja Markov

Adjusting to college writing may seem daunting for many reasons – from understanding how to introduce yourself in the scholarly conversation, all the way to learning how to come up with an argument that is not just a reiteration of previously read points. The R3 (or, in some cases, R2) can be especially intimidating because of its open-ended nature. I think Cheryl’s paper is a great example of just how much you can achieve and learn as a writer through writing your R3.

The first thing that struck me while reading this essay, as well as this particular excerpt, was the orienting of the reader. The first few sentences of the essay do an incredible job of painting the contextual picture of how the authentic Beatles sound was preserved, as well as introducing the accompanying visual choices. From the reader’s point of view, I felt as if I was transported to the exact scene being described. From the writer’s point of view, I was amazed by Cheryl’s efficient usage of her close reading of the short film material to orient the reader. I think this tactic of utilizing some of the compelling material you’ve noticed in your sources and painting a picture to bring the reader closer to your point of view works particularly well with creative sources.

This method of orienting provides Cheryl with a strong foundation for her analysis, which flows seamlessly from this section. Cheryl starts her analysis by reiterating her argument about the song “Now and Then” being transformed “from a lonely solo to a joyous reunion”, which provides the reader with a sense of assurance on where the conclusion is headed. This is followed by yet another brief burst of orienting the reader, now within a historical context, adding yet another layer to her paper. 

Her motive shines within the middle section of this excerpt, where she shows the reader why they should pay attention to this seemingly insignificant shift between the demo and the published version by incorporating strong analysis. Although she didn’t specifically mention her motive within the conclusion, this choice made sense, as her orienting and analysis did the work for her.

Bringing the Motive Home, Spring 2024

Bringing the Motive Home: Conclusion

Is the motive only in the beginning of the paper? What does motive have to do with the conclusion? How do we ensure that the motive gains more depth as we head towards the conclusion and bring it home? This section features three papers: one Writing Seminar paper, one Freshman Seminar paper, and one Junior Paper, in that specific order to illustrate the progression of how students learn to incorporate motive throughout each step of Princeton’s Writing Curriculum. First, we will explore Cheryl Li’s Writing Seminar paper on the posthumous publication of the Beatles song ‘Now and Then’. The final paper in this section is Lina Singh’s Junior Paper on the influence of corporate dairy on dietary guidelines in the United States. These papers model different ways not only to align with the questions raised at the beginning of the paper and throughout the evidence analysis but also to move the questions forward in a generative direction to promote new scholarly questions.

— Nadja Markov ’26 and Grace Kim ’25